×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Body at Brighton Rock’

Roxanne Benjamin’s well-crafted thriller focuses on an unlikely heroine who faces danger during a long, dark night in the woods.

Director:
Roxanne Benjamin
With:
Karina Fontes, Casey Adams, Emily Althaus, Miranda Bailey, Martin Spanjers, Matt Peters, Susan Burke, John Getz.
Release Date:
Apr 26, 2019

Rated R  1 hour 27 minutes

Filmmaker Roxanne Benjamin spends a tad too much time on the character-establishing setup during the first act of her “Body at Brighton Rock.” Once she has lured her audience into joining her plucky but ill-prepared protagonist into a secluded area of a picturesque state park, however, the first-time director efficiently ratchets up the suspense — gradually, arrestingly — and doesn’t let up until she springs a final twist that plays like O. Henry by way of Stephen King.

Taken as a whole, her movie resembles nothing so much as an episode of some ’60s anthology series, à la “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour,” that traditionally spun stories at a measured pace while sustaining tension and raising mortal stakes. Indeed, a judiciously trimmed version of “Body at Brighton Rock” would not have been out of place among the hour-long episodes produced during the 1963 season of the original “The Twilight Zone.”

Karina Fontes is well cast and convincing as Wendy, a part-time summer employee at a mountainous state park where friends and supervisors alike appear to view her as a frivolous scatterbrain. Partly to help a friend spend more time with her crush, and largely to prove she’s capable of handling responsibilities, she offers to switch assignments on the daily work schedule so she can post signs and police the grounds along a hiking trail. Unfortunately, Wendy, while well-meaning and determined, really is something of a ditz. She takes a wrong turn — several wrong turns, actually — and winds up atop a ridge deep in the backcountry.

And then she notices a dead body in a ravine below her.

Making her solo feature directing debut here after earning her spurs as a collaborator on “Southbound” (2015) and “XX” (2017), Benjamin methodically (and, for the most part, plausibly) paints Wendy into a corner by limiting her ability to communicate with home base after she’s ordered to remain in place and secure what may be a crime scene. Naturally, dusk is approaching and, just as naturally, a search team won’t reach her until morning, so she must spend the night all alone in the woods.

Except she isn’t alone: Before sunset, a vaguely ominous hiker who calls himself Red (Casey Adams) wanders by, takes an interest in the dead body, and pointedly suggests that the deceased may not have died as a result of a fall. Red departs, but Wendy worries whether he might return. Time passes, and she starts to worry about other possible unwelcome visitors. Like, for example, bears.

“Body at Brighton Rock” is at heart a story of empowerment, as Wendy struggles to transcend her free-floating fears and entirely justified paranoia while facing the likelihood that, if there’s any rescuing to be done, she may have to rescue herself. At the same time, however, Benjamin, working from her own screenplay, never allows her audience to get too comfortable. Throughout most of the movie, we see everything from Wendy’s anxious point of view. But Benjamin teasingly allows for the possibility that Wendy ultimately will be profoundly affected by something she never sees coming.

Deftly employing the power of suggestion and an emotionally potent sound design, “Body at Brighton Rock” is a well-crafted thriller with some crafty tricks up its sleeve.

Popular on Variety

Film Review: ‘Body at Brighton Rock’

Reviewed at SXSW Film Festival (Midnighters), March 14, 2019. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 87 MIN.

Production: A Magnet release and presentation of a Soapbox Films, Protostar Pictures production. Producers: Roxanne Benjamin, Chris Alender, Dave A. Smith.

Crew: Director, writer: Roxanne Benjamin. Camera (color): Hannah Getz. Editors: Matthew Blundell, Courtney Marcilliat. Music: The Gifted.

With: Karina Fontes, Casey Adams, Emily Althaus, Miranda Bailey, Martin Spanjers, Matt Peters, Susan Burke, John Getz.

More Film

  • On Death Row TV Show

    Miguel Angel Silvestre Talks ‘On Death Row,’ Injustice, Playing Pablo Ibar

    CANNES  —  Movistar Plus has screened at Cannes Mipcom trade fair “On Death Row,” produced Bambú Producciones and Studiocanal which also handled international distribution. The four-part mini series follows Pablo Ibar, a Cuban-Spanish convicted of triple homicide, and his battle to receive a fair trial and prove his innocence. Miguel Angel Silvestre (“Sense8,” “Narcos”) who [...]

  • Festival Lumière 2019 - 2019-10-13 -

    Frances McDormand on the Legacy of ‘Fargo,’ the Power of Cinema

    LYON, France   — Multi-award-winning actress Frances McDormand captivated a packed theater during her master class at the Lumière Festival in Lyon, France, on Monday, serving up anecdotes of her long film career and touching on such topics as becoming the protagonist in her works, life with the Coens and the need for gender equality. [...]

  • Snack'n Screen

    Argentine Projects by Underground, Kapow, The Mediapro Studio, Pitched At Mipcom

    Underground Producciones’ “Qué pasó con Bonorino?,” Kapow’s “Mundiales” and The Mediapro Studio’s “@Mamita” figure among 11 TV series projects pitched today at the fourth edition of Mipcom’s Snack’n Screen Argentina showcase. Comedy and thrillers stand out as the dominant genres of this year’s selection, which also takes in animation production (Manuel Alejandro Vivas’ “Sombras en [...]

  • London Film Festival Posts 6% Rise

    London Film Festival Posts 6% Rise in Attendance for 2019 Edition

    The BFI London Film Festival reported a 6% rise in attendance for its 2019 edition, which wrapped on Sunday with the international premiere of Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman.” “The Irishman” gala premiere, which was attended by Scorsese and cast members Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Harvey Keitel, was streamed via satellite from the Odeon [...]

  • APPLES

    Alpha Violet Takes World Rights for Christos Nikou’s ‘Apples’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Paris-based sales agent Alpha Violet has acquired world rights for “Apples,” the feature directorial debut of Greek filmmaker Christos Nikou. The company and the director will present a teaser of the offbeat dramedy this week at the Mercato Internazionale Audiovisivo (MIA) in Rome. “Apples” is the story of Aris, a solitary man in his late [...]

  • Advanced Imaging Society Honors 10 Women

    AIS Honors 10 Women in Tech

    Celebrating 10 years of achievement in entertainment technology, the Advanced Imaging Society today named 10 female industry innovators who will receive the organization’s 2019 Distinguished Leadership Awards at the its 10th annual Entertainment Technology Awards ceremony on October 28 in Beverly Hills. The individuals were selected by an awards committee for being significant “entertainment industry [...]

  • Nicolas Cage Hainan International Film Festival

    China's Hainan Film Festival Launches Golden Coconut Competition

    The deep-pocketed, government-run Hainan Island International Film Festival has launched a new competition section for its second iteration, set to take place from December 1-8. This year, ten ‘Golden Coconut Awards’ will be given out across three categories of films: feature-length, feature documentaries, and fictional shorts. Prizes will be presented for best picture, best director, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content